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Wells Fargo recently made headlines after the feds revealed the popular banking institution had created millions of bogus accounts, which led to thousands of employees across the country being fired.

When your employer has a bad reputation—especially in the media—it can wreak havoc on your job search. When the news of illegal activity is nationwide, the results from a background check or Google search can be damaging. As a savvy job seeker, here’s what you can do to escape the cesspool without tarnishing your personal brand.

Focus on your achievements

Now is the time to focus heavily on what you’ve accomplished. Analyze what you’ve done above and beyond your coworkers to improve processes, save money, or reduce errors. Educate potentials employers of the success they stand to gain by hiring you. Prepare by making a list of everything you did that legally contributed to your previous company’s bottom line. Showcasing your integrity, loyalty, and ethics is crucial. Grab the employer’s attention with all the juicy details of your achievements. Speak directly to the needs of your target job to better your chances of getting a salary offer.


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You’ll want to move quickly with this one. Be sure to spruce up your LinkedIn profile and get a fresh set of business cards. If you don’t have a one-minute pitch locked and loaded, immediately develop your foolproof strategy. Applying via online job boards may not be your best option. Let your connections know you’re back on the market. Most importantly, send them a copy of your updated resume, so they are ready to pass your information on to hiring managers or recruiters. If you plan to use a former colleague or supervisor as a reference, make sure they have your career documents and can speak intelligently and confidently about the great work you’ve done. Your references also need to be diligent when communicating your core values and reliability. Have them clearly vouch for your performance outcomes and morals. Proceed with caution and make sure their reputations are nothing short of spotless to avoid adding fuel to the fire. Start attending industry-related events and renew any memberships to relevant associations and groups. Avoid employment gaps by volunteering and furthering your education.

Don’t lie on your resume

Some job seekers panic at the thought of listing their previous employer on their resumes when there is illegal activity or bad blood involved. Don’t make this mistake. Sure, you may make the cut for an interview, but a simple background check will reveal the job you omitted. Good luck explaining your way out of that. Honesty goes a long way in your job search. If the potential employer asks what happened with your previous employer, tell the truth but redirect the conversation toward your achievements and results. After all, it’s your interview. Go ahead and shine.

Be honest. Avoid the negativity.

It’s pretty evident that potential employers will want to know why you left your last job. The hiring manager may want to pry into what triggered the bad press and ask whether you were directly involved. Tell the truth but don’t ramble or let the conversation drag on. Again, focus on what you achieved and the value you add going forward. Based on your position, decision makers can sometimes make an educated guess about the role you played in the scandal. However, it’s never a good idea to throw your boss, coworkers, or company under the bus. Keep it classy.

While companies like Wal-Mart can afford to hire reputation management firms to snapback from gender discrimination lawsuits, job seekers just like you can move on from an employer’s troubled past and succeed with thriving businesses. You’ll be no different if you embody a positive mindset, develop a rock-solid plan, and stick to it.

Ashley Watkins, of Write Step Resumes, LLC, offers high-quality career documents and services to job seekers and career changer that generate more interviews and higher salary offers. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via for resume help, interview prep, career tips, and motivational quotes.


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